Kevin Lin, (BSCHE ‘15), Senior R&D Engineer at PepsiCo, presented to students in the Department of Chemical Engineering how he applies artificial intelligence (AI) in his job at PepsiCo Research and Development. While working in the Foods R&D Applied AI team, Lin leads projects to apply machine vision and machine learning to streamline manufacturing processes and accelerate the product development process. Through his time as a process engineer on the global Snacks Extrusion team, he has touched on many areas, including mechanical design, food science, and process economics.
Q: What was the best aspect of your experience at UF CHE?
A: I had an amazing time as a student in UF’s Chemical Engineering department. Not only did I receive a top-notch education, but I made close connections with friends, faculty and staff; and learned so much even outside of the classroom. The department prepared us very well for a successful career ahead, regardless of what path we decided to take!
Q: What is your favorite memory of your time as a student?
A: I have two favorite memories that I’ll share: the first memory was from a late-night study session in the Chemical Engineering Student Center. Nobody else was around, and we were all getting simultaneously tired and restless. To get the blood flowing, we decided to go all the way down to the bottom floor, take off our shoes, and try to slide around on the floor with our socks. A silly memory, but an awesome bonding experience.
The second memory is a little more heartwarming. For our class’s graduation banquet, we all voted to have Dr. Johns give the speech. We enjoyed his laid-back approach to lecturing and figured it would be fun to hear it during the ceremony as well. What we didn’t realize was that he would give one of the funniest, most touching, and most inspirational speeches that we heard in our last semester at UF. It was great being able to celebrate and enjoy one more time alongside my classmates.
Q: Who influenced you during your time at UF?
A: A UF ChE professor that influenced me a lot was Dr. Yiider Tseng. I was not looking forward to a class called “Biology for Engineers,” since I wasn’t a huge fan of the rote memorization required of me back in high school biology. However, Dr. Tseng was able to translate the mechanisms of biology into a series of beautiful electromechanical and electrochemical processes and machines. He helped me develop a fascination and wonder for biology. After taking his course and getting to know him through office hours, I appreciated continuing to talk with him about career growth and development.
Q: How did this time influence your career?
A: My time at UF prepared me very well for my career in Food Engineering. Not only did the chemical engineering fundamentals enhance my technical skills and core competencies, the range of interdisciplinary learning available to me through UF and the Department of Chemical Engineering helped me to broaden my horizons and learn about applications of ChemE outside of traditional petrochemical industries. For example, I had the opportunity to be a student in Dr. Rinaldi-Ramos’ lab, conduct the interdisciplinary IPPD senior design project, and take courses in a wide array of fields like computer science, quantum chemistry, materials science, and even financial accounting!
Q: How have you stayed connected to the Gator Nation?
A: I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the PepsiCo University of Florida Recruiting team ever since I joined the company, and because of this, I’ve been able to stay well connected with the department and the campus. We continue to bring in great talent every year, and it’s a joy to see the Gator Nation growing at PepsiCo R&D!
Q: Have you faced a challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?
A: One of the bigger challenges I faced in my career was within the first year out of college, when the lead engineer on my project left the company. Suddenly, I had substantially more accountability and responsibilities. Initially, it was overwhelming, but I tried to shift my attitude and see it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and demonstrate my talent. In collaboration with the many highly experienced colleagues around me, we were able to develop and commercialize the technology that saved a $30 million business!
Q: What advice do you have for current students?
A: Right now, you’re a student at the University of Florida. But strive to be a student wherever and whenever you are. Learning doesn’t stop after college. Learning doesn’t stop after your class finishes. There are so many people with different perspectives and capabilities that far surpass your own! There’s always something to learn from the people around you, whether it’s fellow students, your professors, or even the people you are mentoring.